Archive for April, 2010

I am watching a TV program in which people play some practical jokes on their spouses.  One husband rigged up a thing to make his wife think he’d cut off a major portion of his foot with an axe.  Needless to say his wife was NOT happy with him when she realized he was just spoofing her.

My mind completely blocks on any practical jokes any of my family ever played on me. Maybe some of them will remember what they might have done–and speak up kids if you can think of any–I’m really blanking her.   I can, however, think of a few memorable experiences (though not quite a practical joke the consequences were somewhat similar) the kids have done to make life more interesting. For instance, there was  the time Danny invited a bunch of kids from his high school to our home while his dad and I were out of town. As you can well imagine they had quite a nice time hanging out alone including engaging in a MUD WRESTLING match in the back yard.  He almost pulled it off except for three tell-tale things:  1) traces of mud in little places around the house; 2) a gallon of grape juice I’d purchased just before I left which I’d put in the pantry which was 1/2 gone when I got back a few days later, and 3) a complete rundown of the goings-on-at-your-house-while-you-were-gone report by the next door neighbors.  Ah…thank goodness for neighborhood watch!!

Back to practical jokes. When I was in the States a few weeks ago I thought my husband was playing a practical joke on me. I got a call from my oldest son (yes the mud-wrestling Danny) who had graciously offered to pick Bill up at dulles airport calling me to ask me where Bill was. I told Danny Bill must have landed and be waiting for his bag but I’d call and find out.  When I called Bill and asked “Where are you?” I thought he was kidding me when he told me, “At home. Why?”

When asked if he was serious that was he in Florida he told me “Yes, I’m in Florida. Why?”  When I reminded him that he was REALLY supposed to be in DC his flight was that day and asked him again “Are you teasing me–are you seriously in Florida?”  he reassured me he was not joking. He ended the call very quickly to see what he could do to “fix”  HIS PROBLEM. Alls well that ends well—he made it to DC about 24 hours late but nonetheless he got there. It certainly would have been better all the same for the checking account had he been teasing and playing a practical joke on me–but he wasn’t.

When I shared with my colleagues the next morning what my husband had done  the day before, the deputy minister of education who was also attending the workshop commented it was SO funny my husband “forgot to come….” The lady who also accompanied us turned to him and scolded him telling him that “you don’t play jokes on your wife and you don’t tell a woman that her husband FORGOT to come see her.”

So, what do you think folks?  Were her words of advice that you don’t play jokes on your wife right? Do you play practical jokes on those you love?  Is teasing them a bit a good thing?  Is it good for the family relationships to spoof around?  Should your spouse or kids be the brunt of your tomfoolery?


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Two movies I’ve seen have dramatically impacted the way I work and live my life.

The first one was a Robert Louis Stevenson story Disney did years ago called Black Arrow. I just loved those old Disney movies—they were classics. This one was no exception. The story is based on historic events during the two roses war in England.  For those of you haven’t read the book, seen the movie or know the history here’s a brief summary.

The Wars of the Roses were a series of civil wars   between supporters of the rival houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England. The war ended with the victory of the Earl of Richmond, Henry Tudor who founded the House of Tudor  which ruled England and Wales for 117 years.  The wars were fought largely by the  landed aristocracy–in other words the POWERFUL and RICH of those days.  They all had their armies on retainers largely composed of the POOR and MARGINALIZED. In as much as it was in their best interest the armies of other countries and the rich and powerful aided both houses.  And then there were also those who would fight for either side depending upon how much they were paid for their allegiance.  All of this support was primarily based on factors that determined who would reign the dynasty based on blood relationships, marriages within the nobility, and the grants or confiscations of feudal titles and lands.

You all know how the movie will play out.  There’s the dashing outlaw (aka BAD GUY) named Black Arrow facing off a villainous count played by none other than good BAD actor Oliver Reed.  Of course there’s gotta be a love match that leads to the inevitable love triangle. So, the basic story revolves around the mean count who tries to force his beautiful, young pupil to marry him.  The movie is full of swahbucklery and keeps you always on the edge of your seat trying to figure out how the dilemma is going to be resolved.

There’s a twist at the end when the count is in the church and almost at the point of marrying the young girl when our outlaw rushes in to save his love. It’s then that everything falls into place and a church bishop (as I recall) who you thought was in league with the evil count turns out to be not so bad in the end- highly manipulative and playing out his cards in terms of who he supports to be the King–but on the right side of our couple in love.

As things get all resolved and Black Arrow aka good outlaw is finally ready to marry his love in the cathedral in front of the whole congregation when a very profound statement is made by the bishop:  It’s not just that justice is carried out–it’s that EVERYONE sees that JUSTICE is carried out.  (That may not be a direct quote folks but is the essence of the statement. ) That was an epiphany for me.  It related to me on so many levels.

For instance, when someone blasts you about something in front of all kinds of folks for something that WAS NOT your fault but then when they realize it wasn’t they apologize in private. UNACCEPTABLE!  Justice has NOT been served.  First lesson to learn in life: Public rebuke and/or humiliation requires a public apology.

Or how about when the media comes up with some incredible scoop.  They splash it all over the front pages of their magazine or newspaper or have it as the lead story on their program.  But then….Oops….they didn’t quite get the story right–just a few problems with their facts being accurate.  No matter, we’ll put a disclaimer on the back page of something or at the end of the program on the day that you have the lowest audience watching. Second lesson to learn in life:  This is Unacceptable: The level of rebuttal must be equal to or greater than the level of humiliation and rebuke.

Or how about when someone does something that impacts your ability to accomplish something or destroys something you’ve done or made and their response is a flippant—“Oh, i really didn’t mean to do that. SORRY my BAD.” And they trot off as if the apology is sufficient to compensate for the loss of your time and/or resources or dismissive of your loss.  Third lesson to learn in life:  This doesn’t cut it folks; there needs to be some level of compensation. Find out what it is and do your best to meet that expectation.

The list is endless of the kinds of things where justice needs to be fair and visible and equivalent to what happened or what was lost.  I try to remember this lesson I learned from Black Arrow and follow it in my life. Religiously.

The second epiphany was from the movie Working Girl.  This storyline is your classic Horatio Alger story in which poor but bright and hard working girl overcomes all the odds (including an unscrupulous boss) to make it to the top.  Tess McGill played by Melanie Griffith  is a young woman determined to reach the top of the stockmarket world. She has several things against achieving her dream, however, not the least of them being she hasn’t had the opportunity to study to become a stock broker.

But she’s smart (and very pretty–being very pretty doesn’t hurt in life as we all know all too well) and has some ideas on how to make a bundle in the business. So, when she lands a job as a secretary for  for Katherine Parker played by Sigourney Weaver  she’s really pleased when her boss seems supportive of her ideas and suggestions on how to do things better.

Of course, the story takes a real twist when Tess discovers Katherine (who is out on medical leave after breaking her leg in a skiing accident) is trying to take credit for Tess’s big idea on how to save a large company from a a foreign takeover.  This spurs Tess to put in motion a deception to do a deal by using her idea herself while Katherine is on her medical leave. (When you’re pretty you can get away with deceptions like that because the BIG boss likes your looks and falls in love with you but that’s all incidental to the epiphany.)

In contrast to the manipulative and dishonest Katherine who tends to be rather dismissive with her staff (and colleagues) Tess wins over the support and affection of her colleagues because she treats them with respect and gives them credit for the ways they contribute to a winning effort. (And let’s not forget PRETTY but being REALLY nice can make up for being UGLY folks.)

So, my second movie epiphany.  You get a lot farther in life by creating working environments and teams where people aren’t afraid to share winning ideas because they know they’ll get credit and opportunity for their hard work, smart ideas and creativity.  Don’t hog the credit when you’re a boss. Validate the contribution of others and give VISIBLE credit (aka Black Arrow style) to the hard work and ideas of others.  Although it doesn’t ALWAYS translate into supportive staff working for you it’s a much better to use this kind of management style than by not acknowledging the hard work and contributions of others.

So, how about you?  Any movies you’ve watched that had that AHA moment for you?  Would love to hear about them.

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this is by far the best blog i have seen.  It’s written by a young woman whose parents divorced when she was three and the impact that divorce had on her life.  Very powerful, impressive writing about a topic that is so important to so many innocent children. I you get a chance drop by and see it. There are a lot of good blogs….but the content and sincerity of this one makes it so so significant.

PS– i was told the link to the blog didn’t work. it does for me. however if it doesn’t–go to my blog roll and hit the link that says children of divorce and it should work from there.   SORRY.

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I want to share a path down memory’s lane with the person who is probably my most faithful follower on this blog.

We met nearly 40 years ago in England.  We were both spending our sophomore year abroad in a liberal arts Christian college in the quaint community of Binfield in the region of Berkshire (pronounced Bark-shire) not far from London.

I’m sure that year for you was just as special as it was for me. My first time living outside of the US—it was a magical year of meeting new people from faraway places and navigating new cultures and languages. Although in theory we were both attending school I have no doubt that our GPAs that year didn’t match our performance during all our other years in college. At least mine didn’t. It took me a long time and an endless deal of effort to bring it back up to where it was before I went to Newbold after my year of literally traipsing about, frolicking and living it up.

Although there were a relatively large group of American students who’d elected to attend school there we each formed little groups that hung out with one another. Our friendships were cemented even further after the Christmas break when different groups headed out on the adventures of a lifetime traveling on the continent.

By chance, the girl’s dean conducted a worship a short time before our trip together about the power of 1st Corinthians 13. She told us that if you read the chapter once a day for a month it would change your life. We decided we’d use that month to conduct our own little experiment and see if it changed us.  I have no doubt that our daily reminder that….

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…

had a great deal to do with our friendship staying intact despite the snow, rain, cold sometimes wretched sleeping conditions and all the other difficulties we faced during those three weeks we traveled together. I have vague memories of wanting to get angry but being reminded of what true love is all about and holding my tongue.  Would I have remembered that advice throughout my life –I’m sure some things might have turned out differently than they did.

Debbie, you and me armed with Eurrail passes that permitted us to have unlimited access to the trains that crisscrossed the continent. We headed out for a three week winter wonderland voyage never to be forgotten. I know I had lots of mixed emotions as we began our journey with a wintry and somewhat wet crossing of the channel and then an overnight train into Paris. But not one to be easily daunted I was ready for all that lady luck had in mind for us.

I don’t recall how many days we stayed in Paris although I do remember we elected to spend more time than originally planned delighting in the scrumptious French bread, cheeses, yogurt, fruit and MUSEUMS, MUSEUMS and more MUSEUMS. I remember our first walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with its glittering white Christmas lights, the Eifel Tower, Notre Dames, Mont Blanc—the list is endless. Paris intoxicated me then and still does to this day. What an incredible city. I will NEVER tire of its beauty weary of its magic. Although I can’t speak for you I do think you shared my joy. One thing is FOR SURE I know we were all pretty amazed by the street side cabinette toilets that could be found all along the streets of Paris—much like portable Johnnies at building sites in the US.

Our stay in Rome came next. We planned it to be there on Christmas Eve and rented a small room in a pennsione not far from the Vatican City. Not to be outdone with our stay in Paris we attacked Rome with a vengeance.  Remember our visit to the Vatican museum and that little man in the orange-colored coat stalked us for hours?  Do you recall how we hung out in the post office writing post cards to friends and families hoping he would tire of waiting and leave. Then our walk on the sidewalk peeking in car side mirrors to see if he was still there? Weird! We finally lost him after running for several blocks…laughing delightedly at our “spy techniques” to lose the guy.  Ah…the memories just flood back….the young GORGEOUS guy in the deli who offered us free cheese for a kiss…don’t recall who he made that offer to but with your long red hair, my blonde hair and Debbie’s general incredible good looks we garnered more than our share of attention (and pinches) during our visit there especially on the train crowded with soldiers we took from Rome to Florence. Those were the days for sure (I don’t get assaulted with many pinches or stares much  anymore :-)–mind you not that I’m complaining!!!

Our long full day walk across Rome on Christmas Eve almost ended in disaster at the Three Coins fountain when we met up with some rather undesirable men.  But a frantic run back to the fountain when we realized they were NOT GOOD NEWS saved us from God knows what when we were rescued by three American guys hanging out there too (two of which were GIs) who sensed we were in some kind of trouble.  They gallantly offered to walk us back to our hotel—at least help us find a taxi. Then we accidently ran into one of the guys from our school (Rick remember?) just walking about on the streets of Rome that night too.  You may recall how the three of us broke into the Colosseum that night little realizing the second floor was full of huge holes in the floor–we could so easily have fallen through to the lower level.  That was so uncharacteristic of us–we were NOT that way normally.  But is was crazy days and we were crazy kids for sure.

From Rome we ventured to Austria and Salzburg and then on to Munich where we confronted nosy old men who tried to read our journals as we crashed at the train station (BAD IDEA—worst place to hang out ANYWHERE in the world).  But we were inexperienced travelers at that point. As I recall we were also coming down with some pretty horrific colds that some kind German mother staying in the same hostel as us nursed us for several days later.  I don’t recall too much more of our journey after that although I know we spent some time in Brussels and then split up when I left for a short visit with my dad’s family in Flanders. I remember how I felt a bit lonely as you and Debbie headed off to adventures of your own and your way back to school.

The first year back in the States I went to the same college as your older brother. I recall that you accused me of having a crush on him. Athough I denied it at the time the truth of the matter is you were kind of right–even though you were wrong. I did like him in a special way but not like you thought. That summer he and I spent at college together he took a special interest in me and there were a couple of times when we traveled together to visit you at your parent’s home. For the first time in my life I felt like I had an older brother keeping an eye on me. lt certainly was a heady feeling—how I envied you that relationship. I don’t think I ever told you how lucky I thought you were to have such a tight bond with your brother.  And such a cool brother at that!  🙂

You sang “One Hand One Heart” at my wedding. God what an incredible voice. Another friend (who also went to England to school with us) was a bit upset with me when I didn’t ask her to sing at my wedding particularly since she was a friend of my fiancée—had gone to school with him since kindergarten. In retrospect I don’t know why I didn’t ask you both to sing—but at the time I knew it had to be YOUR voice that sang that song. It was a perfect match. It was SO powerful. So beautiful.

Over the years we ran into one another off and on—later when you were working on your graduate studies at the same university where we were attending a special program to prepare us for moving overseas to be missionaries. We lost touch for years and then drifted back into one another’s lives.

As I look back on our friendship and our lives—I wonder about all the dreams and expectations we both held out for ourselves. Time can be a stern master and over the years things have happened in our lives that may not always have been in our master plan. And as we near 60 (can you BELIEVE THAT—we’re ALMOST 60) I can see how I’m wearing down and maybe “out” a little bit.  Things don’t work quite as well as they used to—my eyes see a bit more blurry, my ears don’t catch all the conversations anymore, I get tired quicker and just don’t have the get-up-and-go that I used to.  Each visit to the doctor seems to bring a new (and generally unwanted) revelation! And I know it’s happening to you too.

But—the thing that doesn’t change are all the wonderful friends who have passed through my life. Each of them has brought a special blessing and helped me to appreciate how wonderful this life can be.

So, my friend, you know who you are…this is for you!  Thank you for being there. I am so blessed you have been a part of my life.

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Note to my readers:  All the stories in the Chronicles of Africa come from data I collected when completing my dissertation in the late 1980s.  Sadly, little has changed for the women and girls in the nearly twenty years since I first wrote these stories. This resistance to change is a testimony to the powerful societal and cultural norms that limit the options and contributions they can make. It is my hope that by sharing these stories I can raise awareness and maybe leverage some change.

I consider moneychangers to be a particularly untrustworthy class of people.  I made it a habit to avoid them and generally encouraged visitors to the area to beware of the money changers sleight of hand when trading money.  It was difficult to ignore them totally however,  They around the marketplace in droves and you had to pass through them whenever you went to buy fruit and vegetables or other things spread out in the numerous tables that filled the market square.

One morning as I was leaving to go to a secondary school where I was collecting data I was asked to do a “little” favor for a student. He had received $400 in brand new bills in currency from a sponsor in the United States.  The director of the university where I was working asked if I would be willing to trade the money for him since I was going right past the market where the money changers hung out. I told him I wasn’t used to dealing with the money changers and preferred not to do this. He ignored my pleas and with the parting words of “….make sure you get 120 to 1…” waved me out of the door of his office.

Later that afternoon as I pulled up to the market the money changers pressed in around my car eager to negotiate a trade with me. I reluctantly began to negotiate for a 120 to 1 trade. Most of the money changers lost interest when I refused to lower my demands. Only two men continued to discuss the transaction with me.  Finally, worn down by my insistence that “I know the going rate…” they agreed and handed me the local currency.  After I handed them the bills, 20 new twenty dollar bills, they angrily told me I couldn’t get the 120 to 1 rate for anything lower than a 50 dollar bill.

All the time we were arguing back and forth about the rate I kept my eye on the money clutched in their hands. At no point did I see them move their hands—or the money—out of view.  I had counted the money several times when I was first given it.  I knew exactly how much money I was being asked to exchange.  That represented a great deal of money to a poorly paid missionary so I was very careful to make sure I had exactly the amount I was being asked to exchange.

So, when we couldn’t come to an agreement on the rate and I agreed to take the dollars back, I need something had transpired when I recounted the money they returned and there was $80 less than I had given them.  When I asked them where the rest o the money was they screamed at me I was trying to cheat them and angrily stalked to stand under the awning of a nearby store. Just as they did this, the summer rains began pouring down. Immediately the market place cleared as people ran or cover from the pounding rain.

I considered my options. There was no way I was going to let these two men take advantage of me. After months of collecting data about the situation of women and girls I was completely fed up with the patriarchal system. More than anything I wanted to show them and any man who might be told about me being short changed women could take care of themselves. I had to show them all (and particularly myself) women didn’t have to be victims.

I quickly swung the car around to head in the opposite direction, pulled up to the store where the two men were seeking refuge from the storm, jumped out of the car and grabbed the taller one by the lapels of his jacket. I began shaking him demanding in French he give me back my money. Everyone stopped talking and watched—eyes wide with wonder—as I forcefully shook him and then grabbed his counterpart by his coat tails as he tried to slip past me into the crowd growing ever larger watching the scene before them.

I screamed at them both—“Get into my car—we’re going to the police.”  More shocked than scared they obediently climbed into my car. Despite their compliance I had a problem. I couldn’t go to the police. Even though there was a tacit arrangement over these money changing transactions technically it was illegal. I had to decide what to do. I wanted my money back. Indeed I was determined to get my money back.  Without really thinking about the consequences of my decision I decided to make the drive up the mountain roads back to the university and let the students there get me back my money.

My two passengers knew I had a dilemma too.  Quite frankly I could tell they were enjoying all the attention and seemed to be amused at my decision to head to the gendarme to resolve our little dilemma.  I’m sure they assumed it would end in their favor and until I sped past the police station there wasn’t the slightest indication of any doubt about the outcome. However, once I whizzed past my passengers became much more subdued and hesitantly asked where I was going where I was taking them. When I told them and the other passenger a student from the university who was helping me with my data collection where I was going the two men began whispering in Kinyarwanda.

“We can’t go there. It’s all white people up there. What will they do to us?” The taller of the two men began shouting at me I was kidnapping them and had to let them go.  When his threats didn’t work he began hitting me on my back and arm and yanking at the steering wheel trying to force the car off the road. My anger mounted the more aggressive he became and I began swinging back at him with my right arm eventually landing a hard blow on his face and chest as he leaned forward to jerk on the steering wheel.

He tightly grabbed my wrist and I screamed at him in English, “Let go of me NOW.  Touch me again and believe me I swear to you you’ll be very sorry.” Although I couldn’t see his face I could hear the rage in his voice as he once again demanded I stop and let him and his partner go. He threw my arm loose but continued to swing at me—not quite touching me but threatening to all the same.  While all this was going on my assistant and my attacker’s partner sat bolt upright in their seats amazement mixed with terror as the man and I struggled with each other.  No doubt their fear increased as they watched me in horror struggle to keep the car on the twisting road that perilously clung to the mountain side.

When I was nearly halfway back to the university the money was flung at me. “Here, here’s the $80—you got your money back now let us go.” My answer surprised even me. “No. I won’t let you go until you admit YOU stole the money and apologize to me.” An angry and clearly reluctant apology was mumbled hardly what I wanted but clearly all I was going to get.  I unlocked their doors locked with a child proof lock and stopped just long enough for them to quickly jump out of the car. I could hear them shouting I needed to pay for their taxi ride back to town as I quickly drove off.

I drove a short distance away then pulled to the side of the road and stopped. I laid my head on my arms that rested across the steering wheel. My passenger who’d been silently watching me until this point slowly turned to look at me. He shook his head in amazement and carefully enunciating each word told me, “Madame you were crazy to do that. They could have had knives.” He paused continued shaking his head for another moment and then whispered, “No one is going to believe this one.”

I was warned by a delegation of local teachers (all men) who came to my house later that evening not to visit the market for several weeks because the men I’d confronted might try to damage the car while I shopped.  Even more than thwarting their effort to cheat me I had publically humiliated them and they would be bent on revenge for the way in which I had challenged their manhood.

Three weeks later, when I hesitantly stopped to buy food, it was my turn to be amazed.  Silence slowly spread across the market as everyone stopped bartering and looked at me.  I fearfully recalled my friends’ warnings that even men who didn’t like money changers and their dishonesty would sympathize with them because of the way I had treated them so badly.

Suddenly, an old mama standing near me who sold potatoes and carrots jumped to her feet and began dancing and shouting, intermittently clapping her hands and pointing to the two money changers I had taken on standing on the edge of the crowd of onlookers. “Voleurs, voleurs” (thieves, thieves) she shouted. Soon others joined in her chant dancing and clapping in rhythm to her song.  It was my turn to be amazed when she finished her song and the crowd cheered on what I had done. It was the moment of my triumph.

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I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately and I am amazed at the number of folks who write them that really don’t use homonyms and homophones correctly.  I must admit that I am probably the worst offender.  And my sin is really GREAT because I KNOW the difference between them but am REALLY lazy in my editing and proofreading. No excuse I know but the truth nonetheless.

I’m even more amazed that many of these sites seem to be operating as a commercial venture. I would think any company or business advertising on a blog would ensure that correct grammar is being used. But I guess not. OR maybe…those business owners don’t recognize the difference themselves.

Anyway, my “analness” (see post on proud to be anal) and teacher-in-me are pushing me to do something about this.  So, today we are going to have a basic lesson on the difference between homophones and homonyms. And then after our review we’ll take a little test. (I might add there are homographs too but that’s another lesson for another day.)

So, let’s start with a quick review:

Homonyms:  words which have the same spelling and pronunciation as each other but different meanings.  Examples:  I use a watch to tell time.  OR  I just LOVE to watch Boston Legal.  (Or I could also say, I should watch my weight more carefully).  It’s and its is a bit tricky because of the apostrophe but it falls under the category of a “homonym.”

Homophones: words which have the same pronunciation as each other but different spellings and meanings.  Examples:  Wait/Weight; Time/Thyme; Read/Red; To/Two/Too; They’re/Their/There; Due/Do; Hour/our; Great/Grate—you get the drift.

Commonly MISUSED homophones include the following:

Your—a pronoun often used as a possessive adjective such as the following sentence: Your house is on fire.

You’re—contraction which stands for “YOU ARE” Correctly used in the following sentence:  You’re probably bored to death by this post but this is IMPORTANT!

They’re-contraction for THEY ARE”  Correctly used in the following sentence: They’re signing a petition to force me to delete this post.

Their—possessive pronoun/adjective.  Correctly used in the following sentence: Their time spent reviewing their work was well worth the effort.

There–MY LANDS this is the EVERYTHING word—pronoun, noun, adverb, interjection, adjective.  Examples:

Adverb:  He stopped there.

Adjective: Ask the person there.

Noun: I’ll take you to the store but from there on you’ll have to find places on your own.

Pronoun: He comes from over there.

Interjection: There!  I’ve almost finished this STUPID post!

It’s—contraction for “IT IS.” Correctly used in the following sentence: It’s probably bugging you to death to read all of this but it’s really for your own good.

Its—possessive pronoun.  Correctly used in the following sentence:  Its cover was so battered the book looked much older than it really was. (Although not a homophone Than and Then are often misused too—but again another lesson.)

NOTE: Actually, the case of it’s and its is REALLY tricky because usually you use an apostrophe with a possessive  requiring an “s” as in “The boy’s bike was red”” or The family’s car was old.” But you aren’t allowed to with “its” because adding an apostrophe would make it the contraction “it’s” which as we now know means IT IS.  To replace its with it’s would make absolutely NO SENSE. (For instance, ” Its price was WAY too much,” doesn’t work with the replacement “It is price was way too much,” right? This apostrophe thing must be a REAL bummer for English teachers because you have to admit it’s VERY confusing for non-grammar types like most of us.  Anyway, I digress.

And so….quiz time.  So close your books, take out a pen and paper and BEGIN!

It’s/its time/thyme to/two/too consider how well/wail I/eye have taught you/ewe all/awl. For/four instance, which/witch word is the correct one/won to/two/too use in/inn the following sentence?

They’re/their/there going to/two/too visit they’re/their/there house after going they’re/their/there to/two/too learn more about computers. It’s/its due/dew time/thyme to/two/too end this post and stop the misery I’m inflicting on all/awl my visitors.

Okay. Lesson done. Good-bye/buy for/four another day and another post (which I/eye painfully regret to/two/too inform you/ewe is a homograph…hmmm  know/no it’s/its an homonym….know/no a homophone…know/no…oh heck WHO CARES?)!!

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I worry about the environment. I wonder about the kind of world I’m bequeathing to my grandchildren and their children. I wonder if they’ll be able to run outside without masks on that will filter the air they breathe or if they’ll be able to enjoy the fun of jumping into a refreshing cold lake on a hot summer day. What will the food they eat be like—something that has to be artificial and chemically treated because the “real” stuff is so tainted by pollutants they won’t be able to touch it without risking bodily harm?

I like to think that I live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. But to be honest I wonder what that really means. Does it mean you recycle everything? Or that you ride a bike or walk as much as you can instead of using a car? Or that you carry cloth bags to the grocery store instead of using paper or plastic?

Last year my husband and I built a new house. We tried to make it as green as we could—we put in extra insulation, a solar water heater, water saving toilets that have separate buttons for flushing liquid or solids and indigenous grass that is heat and drought resistant. All the appliances are high energy efficient and we even have put the “basics” in to eventually hook the house up to generate its own electricity with a photovoltaic solar system. We actually were one of the first houses in our county in Florida to get an energy efficient seal of approval. That meant a lot to me because I wanted to do the responsible thing. I wanted to put in a water recycling system to save our rain water and use it instead of pulling water from the aquifer but the county’s regulations don’t allow recycling of gray water—so for the moment we’ve put that on hold.

But despite all these gallant efforts on our part to save the environment and make the world a better, greener, safer place—what does it all mean?  And what does this initiative to have a carbon neutral blog mean? Does it mean that you don’t release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

If the research I’ve done is correct one way to be carbon neutral means using solar cells, wind turbines and hydroelectric turbines generate electricity without releasing CO2. (Aha my desire to have photovoltaic solar panels.)  But it can also mean you’re balancing or trading off the carbons you release by reducing CO2 reduction in another place.  Viola the trees.

Planting trees offsets the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels. Although locking up carbons in trees may not be a long term solution to address our relentless reliance and use of fossil fuels being released into the atmosphere it can hopefully buy enough  time  in the short term to come up with more permanent solutions to save Planet Earth. This tree trade off will only work as each of us makes a commitment to plant trees long into our futures so there will always be a crop—and enough of a crop of trees–to absorb all the carbons we release day after day month after month year after year.

It’s going to take a lot of time to truly become a carbon neutral world. But in the short term—let’s all be Johnny Appleseeds and do our part to save Planet Earth for our future generations of kids. Write a post; copy a button; send an email; AND plant a tree!

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